Hold On Daddy's Coming!

Stories, rants and reflections by a clueless father of three

Archive for the tag “vacation”

Our Wild and Crazy “Family Vacation” in Paradise

Vacationing with small children is a wild, exhausting, action-packed, drama-filled, Kodak moment-waiting-to-happen adventure suitable for those most brave, fortunate and reckless of parents.  I’ve pretty much said this before.  And in my family, it goes a little something like this:

The madness that was our recent trip to Aruba began right out of the gate.  Literally.  After landing, and then dragging four carry-ons and two diaper bags off the plane, and then weaving my way to the baggage claim, I notice something very odd.  Someone’s toothbrushes, sunscreen, big-boy underwear and other items are making their way around the conveyor belt, and everyone who was on Flight 829 from Baltimore is totally getting a kick out of this.  Whose luggage was it?  I’ll give you one guess…

Next stop: our all-inclusive beachfront resort where they serve endless amounts of French Fries drenched in nacho cheese, super-greasy chicken nuggets, and delicious fruity beach drinks.  This will be my meal of choice for the next nine days.  It’s a menu from Heaven – unless you actually mind undoing seven months of intense exercise in about four days.       

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Before I get too far ahead of myself, I should mention that in addition to my family (two adults, three kids) our group consisted of an additional five adults and seven kids all packed into four hotel rooms.  It’s a gloriously-chaotic compilation of nieces, nephews, and in-laws.  Ten kids.  Average age of the little ones?  Three and a half.  There were ten of them. 

Our time spent at the resort was an awesomely-tiring circus of fun and craziness.  Here’s how an average day would go down:

3:00am: baby wakes up.

4:30am: baby wakes up again.

5:00am: baby…

Look, anyone who can maintain their baby’s sleep schedule throughout the course of an international vacation really has this parenting thing down.  Furthermore, baby Brody had an ear infection and I’ve found that when you’re traveling, you’re only ever as happy as your least healthy child.   

6:00am:  Jimmy decides he’s ready to be up for good.  

Quickly and quietly, I surrender and take my oldest outside so my still-nursing wife and the other kids can get a few minutes of uninterrupted sleep.   See, when our family of five shares one small hotel room, each night brings with it yet another hostage negotiation, and these kids know they have all the bargaining power.  They’re cute little criminals.   

Don't be deceived...

Don’t be deceived…

8:00am-10:00am: kids play in sand nicely while mom and dad enjoy coffee and conversation. 

Umm, just kidding.  The kids are probably arguing over who had the pink bucket first… at least that’s what I gather as I hear a chorus of toddlers screaming “MINE!”   Or perhaps it’s a scuffle over the rightful owner of an incredibly popular Thomas the Tank Engine toy.   The purple sand shovel?  That’s “MINE” too.  If you’ve ever been on a trip with a bunch of kids, chances are you’ve said “you can share” many, many times.  Or my personal favorite: “well, take it back from him.”  Either way it’s gonna end in tears. 

The aftermath...

The aftermath…

All of this leaves me wondering why I’m drinking coffee when I could be drinking bourbon.   I’m kidding, of course.  The bar doesn’t open til 11… 

10:00am-11:00am: get ready for the pool. 

Getting small children ready for the pool truly is God’s work.  If you’ve ever seen how ghostly pale I am, you’ll know that we’re rollin’ to the pool with sun shirts, sun hats, and lots of SPF 75 sun screen.   Spray-on sunscreen is amazing, but the best way to cover a face is the old fashion way, which can get sloppy.  So imagine all this happening while two toddlers scream “MY EYES!!!!” at the top of their lungs.   

Ready to swim?  Almost.  All we need is our flotation devices and ear plugs.  And one last trip to the potty.  Oh, and JUICE! 

I may need a vacation from all this vacation…

11:00am-2:00pm: pool time.

Time spent at the pool is legit family fun time, and involves a lot of playing a pretend “silly” lion, or launching kids up in the air as far as humanly possible, or contests to see who can make the most amazing football reception while leaping into the deep end.  It’s all good stuff.   

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My wife and I keep those kids swimming as long as possible because every two minutes spent in the pool adds another minute to naptime.  It’s science.  And when you’re vacationing with small kids, each hour of naptime is like a stick of pure gold.  You treasure that stuff.   

2:00-3:00pm: shower and prep kids for their naps.

Getting multiple sandy children to willingly take a shower is painful, and once in the shower, getting them out can be twice as difficult.  I find bribing them with Skittles helps move this process along quicker and with fewer tears, but if you have a better method please let me know. 

3:00pm-5:30pm: naptime.  

Now quick!  Grab a drink, take a deep breath, and enjoy every glorious moment of childless conversation.   And remember the cardinal rule of naptime parenting: you wake ‘em, you take ‘em.   

NAPTIME!!!!!

NAPTIME!!!!!

6:00pm-8:00pm: dinner.

If there’s one way to ensure you’ll get terrible service and judgmental looks from strangers, it’s walking into a romantic restaurant at its peak busy hour and asking for a “table for 14 plus 3 high chairs.”  Predictably, once we’re seated it’s nothing but chaos.  Picture broken glass because someone didn’t use two hands.  Picture a toddler in timeout because he was climbing on the table and yelling for no reason. Picture a scene as loud, wild and destructive as a group of college students on Spring Break… only louder.  THAT’S what it’s like dining at a table for 14 plus 3 high chairs. 

CHAOS!!!!

CHAOS!!!!

8:00pm-10:00pm: keep kids occupied until bedtime. 

This usually involved long walks, contests to see who could make one of the babies laugh the hardest, or dance parties – and indeed, some of these kids can really shake it.   At this point I’m down for pretty much whatever it takes to bridge the crucial dinner-to-bedtime gap; however, that does come with a few caveats.  Climbing rocks?  “Just be careful.”  Running around the pool?  “Be careful.” Dancing around a cactus?  “CAREFUL!”

Which brings me to my point: I don’t understand why I tell my children to “be careful.”  It’s as senseless as “it is what it is,” and as unhelpful as when you lose your phone and some genius says “well, it’s gotta be SOMEWHERE.”  Lesson learned: “being careful” means nothing to my children – particularly Jimmy, who actually did fall on a cactus.  I guess that just is what it is… 

Not my fault.  I told him to be careful...

Not my fault. I told him to be careful.

10:00pm: bedtime. 

How do we go about capitalizing on this newfound freedom?  We go to sleep cuz we’re exhausted and this whole process will repeat itself in the morning.   

So yea, that’s what it was like vacationing with a bunch of kids. 

Timed family photo fail...

Timed family photo fail…

Oh, and in case anyone is wondering what it’s like getting a flight out of Aruba, apparently this is the process: you stand in line to check in, and then check your bags.  Then you stand in a line to have your passport checked, after which you stand in another line to have passport “verified.”  Then you stand in line to go through security.  Once your shoes and belt are back on, you make your way to “US Departures” where you grab the bags you just checked, and then stand in line again to go through another layer of customs, after which you go through security.  Again.  And then you check your bags.  Again. 

It was every bit as long and painful as a tax audit.  Or a Redskins game.  At one point I actually wondered if this was the island’s way of punishing me for not attending a single timeshare presentation.   Perhaps I’ll never know. 

What I do know is this: in a few years, these trips will be relaxing and rewarding.  But for now, while the kids are this young, I’m simply thankful that it was indeed a very rewarding nine days in paradise. 

Cuz let me tell ya, there’s nothing relaxing about a table for 14 plus 3 high chairs… 

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28 Totally Random Thoughts From Myrtle Beach

I spent the last week in Myrtle Beach, SC swimming with children, bathing myself in sunscreen, and doing some thinking about life down by the boardwalk.  Consider this a print-out of those thoughts:

1. This whole YOLO thing isn’t going way. 

YOLO, or You Only Live Once, is the “WWJD” of this decade, as about half the shirts and hats I saw on the boardwalk bear the acronym.  It also goes on my official List of Things I Never Thought Would Last Longer Than Two Years, which includes energy drinks, Taylor Swift and text messaging.

2. If I ever see my daughter wearing a “Beer Slut” shirt she will be grounded for months, and then forced to wear a turtleneck and corduroy pants for the rest of her life.

To clarify: there will be no wearing of shirts that say “Beer Slut.”

To clarify: there will be no wearing of shirts that say “Beer Slut.”

3. Cruise by Florida Georgia Line ft. Nelly kinda makes me wish I had a brand new Chevy with a lift kit…

4. My two year-old son is in love and he doesn’t care who knows it!!!

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Jimmy did not hide his feelings for this girl! Look at him…he’s hooked! Meanwhile, my wife, mother in law and I enjoyed chanting “Jimmy’s got a girlfriend!” and good Lord are we going to enjoy embarrassing him when he actually gets one.

5. We have a twin stroller and a baby stroller.  So naturally our twins fight like savages over who gets to ride in the baby stroller.

Riley wins this battle...but the war is far from over.

Riley wins this battle…but the war is far from over.

6.  My wife doesn’t think hotel maids need to be tipped.  I, however, vehemently disagree and think they deserve to be tipped.

Of course, what maids really deserve when they walk into our cracker crumb factory of a hotel room is a heartfelt apology and a pay raise.  Or better yet, a new job.

Of course, what maids really deserve when they walk into our cracker crumb factory of a hotel room is a heartfelt apology and a pay raise. Or better yet, a new job.

7.  I totally forgot our anniversary. 

Fortunately my wife did too, so I got a mulligan on this one.  Say, will someone out there please give me a heads up about three days before Valentines Day?   Equally important: will someone give my wife the same heads up?

Fortunately my wife did too, so I got a mulligan on this one. Say, will someone out there please give me a heads up about three days before Valentines Day? And equally important: will someone give my wife the same heads up?

8. The pool is no place to call a toddler’s bluff on the subject of going “poop.”  Moving on…

9.  Restaurants that slip a $.50 charge on the bill for each little Dixie cup of ice water served should be shamed publicly.

This place belongs on some kind of sex offender registry for restaurants.  If you see this establishment then I suggest you hide your kids and hide your wife!

This place belongs on some kind of sex offender registry for restaurants. If you see this establishment then I suggest you hide your kids and hide your wife! And your husbands too! 

10. Whoever invented spray-on sunscreen deserves a Nobel Prize as far as I’m concerned – a mind-blowingly genius invention on the same level as air conditioning and the bunk bed.

Totally covered.

Fear not: this white boy is totally covered!

11.  Navigating a double stroller through heavy pedestrian traffic on the boardwalk is pretty much the worst thing ever.  It involves a lot of this: “Excuse me.  Sorry.  Excuse me.  Sorry.”  Now repeat…

12.  No, daddy, no!” I hear that quite a bit now, and will probably continue to hear that for at least the next 18 years.  Nooooo!!!!

13.  Getting our toddlers to leave an arcade without crying is simply impossible.

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More! More! Please! Please! No, daddy, no!” Yea, that’s the thanks I get for shelling out every last quarter to my name.

14. Watching Shark Week minutes before heading out to swim in the ocean is kind of terrifying.

Not too deep son!!!!

Not too deep son!!!!

15. The 1200 N Ocean Boulevard at which we arrived after 8 grueling hours of driving is about 45 minutes from the 1200 N Ocean Boulevard we really needed to get to.  Dang you iPhone Navigation!!!!

16. Continental breakfasts are so underrated.  I applaud the hotel industry for making this pretty much standard.  Now let’s start working on Continental lunches, dinners and midnight snacks…

17.  There is an ocean and four amazing pools at this hotel, and naturally our kids want to spend almost all of their time on these 90+ degree days in the 102+ degree hot tub. 

18. Watching hundreds of disgusting catfish eat little pieces of grain is strangely fascinating to me.  Is that weird?

No, it's not weird.  It's actually awesome.

19. There is nothing worse than trying to enjoy a delicious fruity beverage in a lazy river, and having rowdy teenagers ruin EVERYTHING by turning it into a racetrack.  #firstworldproblems.

20. When your son wants to ride the giraffe but someone else takes it and all that’s left is a horse, carousel rides are only medium-fun. 

#toddlerproblems

#toddlerproblems

21. At what point during the course of an eight hour drive is it no longer a lie to tell your children that they’re “almost home”?  After two hours?  Three? 

22.  Nothing will make you run through a fast food restaurant faster than seeing your two-year old daughter naked in the play place.  Like, totally, completely, 100% naked.   Not even socks.

23. In high school, I came here for “Beach Week.”  Now, 12 years later, it’s referred to as “a week at the beach,” and trust me there’s a huge difference.

24.  You know you’re a mom when…

An expensive pineapple drink starts leaking and you fix the problem by putting a diaper on it.  Mom with the save!

…an expensive pineapple drink starts leaking and you fix the problem by putting a diaper on it. Mom with the save!

25. This is what 95% of our family pictures look like:

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26. The Ferris Wheel is the only place in Myrtle Beach that offers a military discount.

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Trust me, my wife checked everywhere. Every. Where.  

27.  My daughter sleeps with her bottom pretty much straight up in the air.  Which is amazing.

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What’s even more amazing is that my mother-in-law, Tricia Craddock, slept with these two each night of the trip so my wife and I could get some sleep.  Yes!

28. And lastly, thank you, Gunnery Sgt. Ryan Jeschke, USMC.

A year ago this week, Jeschke was killed while honorably defending our country in Afghanistan.  He was a hardcore special ops Marine serving his fifth active duty deployment.  Five deployments.  He embodied “YOLO” before YOLO became YOLO. 

Or better yet, that’s WWJD.

And more importantly, he sacrificed his life for others, which is exactly “What Jesus Would Do”

May God bless his wife and family, and may our family never forget the sacrifices others have made so that we can spend a week playing in an arcade, drinking in a lazy river, and yes, chasing my naked daughter through a Chick-fil-A.

Traveling With Twins: How We Survived A Week In Paradise

A note to all the soon-to-be-dads out there: nothing will slap you in the face and make you realize how different life is with children than going on vacation with them.  Trust me.   

Last month, we went on a family trip to Jamaica (awesomely paid for by my mother-in-law) and stayed at an all-inclusive resort.  The trip was excellent.  But also kind of exhausting.   

Preparations commenced days before the trip even began.  Jackie and I went through a mental checklist of things the babies “needed” to have, which also got us thinking about all the things we wouldn’t have on the trip – things like exersaucers and electronic pianos and bouncy seats.  Oh my!

Even so, Jackie packed a lot of stuff.  Mind you, I used to go on trips with literally just a grocery bag, so you can imagine my disbelief when I discovered we were bringing the following items: two gigantic suitcases, two not-quite-as-gigantic suitcases, a backpack, a stroller, a diaper bag, and Jackie’s purse.  Hooray baggage fees!

Here’s how it went down: we woke up at 3:30am, left at 4am, and got to the airport at 5am.  We were hoping the babies would be asleep the whole time, but one sure thing about vacations is that they throw sleep routines out the window from the moment they begin. 

Note: there are three sleep routine killers: vacations, Daylight Savings Time, and grandparents. That is a scientific fact.

Anyway.  We were sure to bring passports for the babies so they would be legit. 

Fast forward.  We’re checked in.  Next major obstacle?  Getting through security. 

Before we had kids, pretty much the only thing I ever worried about when going through security was whether or not my socks matched.  But with two babies and a million bags, there are far more important things to consider.  Things like… 

– What the heck am I supposed to do with this gigantic stroller?

– How am I gonna take off my shoes while holding a baby and placing bags onto the conveyor belt?

– Are there chemicals in this baby formula that will trigger a TSA pat-down?

Ahh!!!!!!!!!!!

Somehow we got through and on to the gate.  Once we get there, the kids are being pretty loud, but I have coffee at this point so it doesn’t really bother me.  And then I hear: “would Mr. Howland please approach the ticketing counter?” Oh boy… 

Note: I have never heard my name over the loudspeaker at an airport and had it be a good thing.  I’m gonna go ahead and say that unless you’re on standby, hearing your name at an airport is pretty much always a bad thing. 

So anyway, I hear the guy say something about how (I’m paraphrasing) “somebody’s flight somehow got mixed up and (blah, blah, blah), so I regret the inconvenience but you have been moved to the very back of the plane.”  Translation: your family’s gonna be obnoxious, so sit in the back and like it.   

Note: we actually did like it.  I would much rather be in the back of the plane where crying is drowned out by the sound of a ridiculously loud engine, and the babies can roam free.  So my whole theory about hearing my name over the loudspeaker is pretty much false…

Before we had kids, I slept on planes.  (Sigh…).  That was nice.  Now I hold babies.  On this particular trip, I got to sit with Riley, who hates sitting still!  I spent a decent portion of the plane ride on the ground, playing with her and allowing her to crawl through the aisle. 

Internal monologue: I used to see people doing these things and thought about how ridiculous they looked.  But then again I’m a big fan of American flag ties, Hawaiian shirts and fanny packs, so I guess I’m just carrying on a long history of looking ridiculous. 

Internal monologue continued: but seriously, there’s nothing ridiculous about American flag ties…

Well, we finally made it to Jamaica.  Normally when we arrive at all-inclusives the first thing I do is snag about six pieces of pizza from the kitchen and order a strawberry-banana daiquiri from the bar.  But now before I do any of that I need to make sure the hotel knows that we need two cribs in our room. 

“No, no, TWO cribs…twins…”

 After a great dinner, everyone is tired.  It’s a good night for everyone pack it up early and get some sleep.  And by “sleep” I mean stay up and party all night.  I’m serious.  You would have thought we laced their bottles with Red Bull.  Remember what I said about vacations throwing everything off?  It’s soooo true.      

A message to dudes out there who don’t have kids and think it’s ridiculous that new parents always talk about bedtime/naptime routines: you’ll be here soon, young grasshoppers.     

By 6:00am Jimmy was asleep and Riley was awake, so I took her out to breakfast where I notice lots of young couples with their infants/little children.  We didn’t sit together, and we didn’t talk to each other, but we all gave each other that forced “I-know-why-you’re-miserable” smile.  We’re all just parenting in paradise… 

I also talked to a woman who told me that there was a free nursery at the resort, and that she used to take her baby there during the day.  I asked: “IT’S FREE?”  Then I told Jackie about the nursery and she pretty much goes: “WAIT! IT’S FREE?”

That’s my wife!

Since this is not just a vacation story but also a survival story, let me just say that the resort nursery was our lifeline.  We took them in there from 1pm-5pm.  Until then, it was the storm before the calm.  In fact, one day, I asked Jackie what time it was.  A few minutes later I asked again.  Then I got busted.

Jackie:  “are you counting down the minutes until the babies go to the nursery?”  

Me: “uhh… no?”

When the babies weren’t in the nursery, they were in the sand.  Literally.   Of course, before we went out to the beach, we had to apply gallons and gallons of sunscreen.  See, Jackie usually gets the kids dressed and ready to go places, but because she hates putting on sunscreen and the kids get their pale complexion from me, she “allows” me to do it.  We cover them good: hats, sun shirts, etc.  At the beach, those babies looked more like they were going paintballing. 

And here’s another problem: one night Jimmy literally didn’t sleep.  He cried uncontrollably in our room for hours, and the only thing that calmed him down was fresh air.  So, at 2:30am, I grabbed the stroller and walked him for about an hour.  He eventually fell asleep in his stroller, and I slept on a loveseat in the lobby.  Turns out he had a fever…FOR MORE COWBELL!!!**

**Actually, he had an ear infection.  True story.  A cowbell probably would have made things worse…

Some lessons learned from our big trip:

1. Jamaican ants are attracted to baby formula.  Fortunately, Jackie doesn’t believe in killing ants… she believes in genocide!

2. Saying “respeck mon!” instead of “thank you” gives you a little bit more street cred in Jamaica. 

Note: but every time I said “respeck mon” people looked at me funny…

3. Riley loves having ice cream and cheese fries served to her on the beach.  And who wouldn’t? 

4.  Jamaicans are great dancers, but nerdy white guys like me can still teach them a thing or two!    It’s a good thing there’s paradise in parenting, because parenting in paradise can feel like it’s anything but. 

Jamaica: we came (with babies). We saw. We…survived.

This picture pretty much sums up the week perfectly

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